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Ship owners decry dominance of Nigerian maritime sector by foreigners

By Guardian Nigeria
30 September 2009   |   1:49 am
AS Nigeria marks its 49th independence anniversary on Thursday, indigenous ship owners are lamenting their inability to play active role in the maritime sector dominated by foreigners.

Although, the ship owners who operate under the aegis of the Indigenous Ship owners Association of Nigeria (ISAN) are happy with the various reforms in the sector, they however want the implementing agencies to enforce the provisions of the law.


They said that while their foreign counterparts are in business, their members are going through difficult times.

The Chairman of ISAN, Chief Isaac Jolapamo, said that while indigenous ship owners could only move cargoes within the nation’s waters once in a month, the foreign ship owners could move cargoes up to three times in a week.

According to Jolapamo, indigenous vessels are idle and huge costs are being incurred as the engines keep running.

Besides, he said that foreign ships, were entering the nation’s waters at will despite the Cabotage law, while the relevant agencies watch the ships helplessly.

However, in the last two months, ISAN had obtained court orders and arrested six foreign ships alleged to be trading in Nigerian waters in defiance of the Coastal and Inland Shipping Act, otherwise known as the Cabotage Act, which was enacted in 2003.

Jolapamo blamed the development on the inability of the implementing agency to enforce the provisions of the law.

According to the ship owner, six years after the Cabotage law came into effect, the law has not achieved its intended objectives.

“Because of this, we (Nigerians) have not done well and there is nothing to roll out the drums for in respect of the 49th independent anniversary,” he said.

Jolapamo urged the Federal Government to support the ISAN Shipping Company with cargoes and grant the company the status of a national carrier.

The ship owner said that with the liquidation of the Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNSL), Nigeria had gone down from 20 ships in the 1990s to nil today.

He however, advised that those calling for the return of the NNSL were yet to learn from the bitter lessons of the past.

NNSL was liquidated in 1995 and all the vessels in its fleet were sold.

The former President of the Nigerian Association of Master Mariners (NAMM), Capt Adewale Ishola, said that the nation’s indigenous ship owners should be able to transport more of Nigeria’s crude oil than the foreign ship owners, but the reverse had been the case.

A member of ISAN, Capt. Olaniyi Labinjo, urged the Federal Government to reverse this trend because in some oil producing countries, the indigenous ship owners dominate the trade.

Labinjo said that this was the only way to build a good future for all Nigerians and generations yet unborn.

The Chairman, Shipping Association of Nigeria (SAN), Mr Val Usifo, said that he would not support the revival of the NNSL.

Usifo said that if the shipping line must be revived, it should be private sector driven with government support in the areas of cargoes.

The ship operator suggested that the Federal Government should rather support ISAN in developing a national fleet of vessels.

The Deputy National President of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Mr Eugene Nweke, said that it was unfortunate that 49 years after independence, Nigeria was yet to be ranked among the big maritime nations.

Nweke faulted the concession exercise, adding that the Nigerian Ports Authority Act 1990 ought to have been amended before the concession and not after.

He said that it was a shame that the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA); the NPA Act; Nigerian Shippers’ Council Act; were undergoing review now 49 years after the country gained independence.

The Secretary to the Senior Staff Association of Communication, Transport and Corporations (SSACTAC), Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) branch, Mr Akin Leoso, said that with port concession, there should be 24-hour cargo clearance at the nation’s ports.

Leoso believes that the target is difficult to achieve despite all the reforms carried out at the port.

He, however, did not support the move to revive the liquidated NNSL.

He expressed doubt if the proposed company would be well managed and whether it would not go the way of the liquidated NNSL.

Despite the challenges of the maritime sector, the stakeholders lauded President Yar’Adua’s administration for the dredging of the River Niger, a key policy of the administration’s seven- point agenda.

They described the dredging of the River Niger as a giant stride because successive governments had been unable to dredge the river in the last 30 years.

Yar’Adua had recently in Lokoja, flagged off the dredging of the 572 kilometre River Niger, which will cut across eight states from Baro in Niger State to Warri in Delta State.

When completed, the dredging will provide cheaper and reliable water transportation and reduce congestion at both the Lagos and Port Harcourt ports.

Eight inland ports will also be established in the respective states through which the river flows.